Books are a means of allowing the imagination to unfold without a budget to hold back your creativity. Yet in Hollywood they are ultimately a means to write the next big blockbuster to draw people to the theaters. This weekend yet another adapted screenplay comes to life in the form of the Giver. Haven't heard of the book? Neither had I until about three weeks ago, so I was excited to see what this movie had in store. What were my thoughts on the film? Read on to find out.
The Giver is not the most exciting tale, merely another story about a utopia where everything is controlled and all negative aspects have been eliminated. At the beginning of the movie, the pace is a little slow, a mere introduction into the world and all its endeavors. It is not until we meet the Giver (Jeff Bridges) that things begin to pick up and thing become much more interesting. The Giver trains his protégée Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) to take on his new job as the Receiver, learning the memories of the past in order to guide the future. While not the most unique story, this tale is interesting in the way it is executed as both cinematography and acting come together to make a fantastic presentation.
We'll start with the cinematography and editing first. The black and white world hasn't been seen in a popular movie since the Artist, but this time we have sound to go along with our nostalgic filter. The lack of color sort of drains you of your emotions, which falls in line with the emotions of the town. As Jonas learns more about the past, things begin to change though and the developing team begins to subtlety introduce colors back to the film. It gradually adds excitement to the film, running parallel to the evolving story and characters within it, until the exciting, albeit downgraded, climax. Perhaps the greatest source of emotion though come from the memories that the two protagonists share. The directors selected great clips to entertain us with, starting simple at first and gradually diving deeper down the rabbit hole. Each memory brings about it a new set of feelings each further developing Jonas to make the choices he makes. Between each of these memories we have Jonas reintroduced back into the world, seeing it through different eyes as he contemplates the inner workings. Often these realizations bring back more colors, as well as further pieces of the puzzle to solve. It is balanced, and very good at teaching us lesson with the emotions that well up with each scene. Here I will warn you to exercise caution with younger minds, for some of the darker memories may be a bit too much, sad or disturbing, for smaller children to handle.
Of course the camera can only do so much, and movies require actors to assist in bringing the players to life. Bridges is my favorite of the bunch, his rugged approach to characters providing the right gruff to make anything both funny and serious at the same time. His sarcastic delivery and straight to the point approach provides both entertainment and lesson, helping to alleviate the tension that builds up in the movie. Thwaites' chemistry with him is good, the boy not only reacting to the new memories, but also trying to handle everything that comes with them. While a bit overacted at parts, Thwaites manages to pull off the role well and was quite enjoyable to watch. While these two are the bread and butter of the movie, the supporting characters have some good acting to further enhance the story. The talented Meryl Streep brings the Chief Elder to life, not necessarily evil, but with evil like qualities she used to maintain order. Streep's voice was perfect for the role of a supreme leader, and her elegant features complemented the monotone suit well. Playing kind of the second in command is Katie Holmes, whose track record has been mixed in terms of acting quality. For this reviewer, she did a great job playing the stern mother, using her stoic facial features from the past to really bring a sense of threat and discipline. Holmes has played plenty of no nonsense roles and she slips right back into the role that both annoyed and impressed me at the same time. Odeya Rush is a very cute actress, who has a great talent for line delivery, executing her lines with the right emotions with the right emphasis. She does have to work a little on her voice breaking, because some her lines sounded more like whining than acting for me. Yet she does a nice job of changing out her acting style as the characters change. Even Taylor Swift makes an appearance in this movie, though her acting hasn't greatly changed from her earlier roles.
To wrap this review up, The Giver is a thoroughly enjoyable movie by how fantastic the emotions are presented. This is a movie that does a great job at teaching lessons, and doing it without the cheesy dialog that often makes Facebook quotes. The combination of visuals and acting are some of the best I've seen in a while, and have not been overshadowed by high explosive special effects. Yet it is not the most exciting movie and has some stretches to accept in order to get the full effect. Is it worth the trip to the theatre? I would say not necessarily so, because there isn't a lot made for the big screen, though I'm not saying you are wasting your money if you do go see it. My scores for The Giver are:
Drama/Sci-Fi: 7.5 Movie Overall: 7.5
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